How my Heart Lies: My Buenos Aires Querido
Check out the second picture. Isn’t that the narrowest house you have ever seen?
I discovered that many neighborhoods in Buenos Aires have houses and buildings with that half neoclassical, half art nouveau style. Time changes everything, but I’m here for the little details that never change. I love nostalgia. It’s like that hug that squeezes the heart. I might never get to write about my years in Argentina—we’ll see—but I remember them among the best of my life, and I’ve been lucky to have had many of those.
The one thing that comes to mind now is the comments of friends who got to live in Argentina before me. They often talked fondly about this culturally rich country. How quickly was I to dismiss them? How wrong did I find myself to be afterward?
One day, a girlfriend and I walked through a residential neighborhood north of Palermo, crossing streets uphill. The little trick a lover showed me to always know where the center is kept me looking at the slope of the setts, half in the past, half here still. Years had gone by in a blink of an eye. I predicted the names of the intersections we crossed, one after another, as a joke, entertaining her and surprising her every time we reached the street names with our eyes. We walked a lot without fault until we turned in Medrano. I didn’t miss a single one. I realized I had grown to understand Buenos Aires so well this eternal tourist attitude didn’t fit me quite well.
“You always know where we are,” she said, impressed at my photographic memory.
I just pay attention, I thought, curious monkey that I am.
“I’ve lived here all my life and don’t even know where we are.”
“There’s a great coffee house around that corner,” I said, pointing to a street a few blocks south from the theater I frequented on the weekends of birras and improv. “It’s owned by a lovely Venezuelan family. The best carnes are that way,” I said, pointing in the other direction to a little hueco some other friend had shown me when we took turns to get meat for the monthly asados. I knew the flower alley was several blocks to our right, and while they were dwindling—merchants had been moved near Abasto—it had the closest flower shop I could get to on a bike to buy ways to make my ex-girlfriend smile.
I stopped walking and closed my eyes. The entire grid of mi Buenos Aires querido showed up in my mind. Like a video game, I could travel through every street, from Congreso and Puerto Madero to Villa Crespo and the bar with Cortazar’s name where I should have been thrown out for smoking cigarettes. I could see El Parque Las Heras and go around it like in my regular 5K runs. I could go to the forests and throw a lazy blanket on the grass for picnics of weed, songs, and hugs. I could visit every Bolivian vegetable shop from the Obelisco to Junin and back. And I could snoop through the windows of every corner not overtaken by barbershops or where I got my shoes redone. I could hear the barking of my ex’s dogs I miss.
I opened my eyes, and I smiled.
To this day, I know I know Buenos Aires better than I know all of my other homes. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I am too high on every stimulus around me to have time for anything else. I love every wall and every step of the years I spent walking through this planet that holds me and, from time to time, looks at me funny. I hope there will be more to come, even when I am scheduled to die at forty-five.
I know I implied I might not write much about this period of my life, my secret and private life as a collection of molecules transiting love, rock and roll, friendship, and milongas in secret Tango bars. But as you can see, I might be unable to help it. It’s how my heart lies.